A Better Day for Photography than Birds

A trip to the Octoraro Lake area for some birding did not produce what I had hoped for on the bird front. I saw some ducks and great blue herons and managed to take some of the worst bird photos I have ever attempted. I did better with photos of the surrounding countryside.

One of the spectacular farms of the area.
I usually avoid shooting abandoned buildings, but this is part of a working farm.
Enjoying lunch on a sunny day …
This was the fastest moving Amish buggy I have ever encountered.
While this one was trying to avoid traffic on my way home.

Finally, a shot from northwestern Chester Country, because I like it and don’t have another post to put it in.

The Season Begins

The onset of Spring turns my mind to birds. This is usually the best time of year to look for birds due to the opportunity to see migrating rarities in bright breeding dress. I frequently stop by Marsh Creek State Park when in the area. This is a good spot for bird watching, but I don’t seem to have much luck here. It probably doesn’t help that I am not a morning person and am, therefore, often looking for birds after 11 am. I did see some distant Common Mergansers on the lake, but had to settle for non-bird photos.

Land cruisin’
No entry
I always think I am going to find something here but never do ….

I also stopped by Struble Lake that day. This was more promising this time around. I saw a Savannah Sparrow and a lot of Snow Geese. There was still a fair amount of ice on the lake in early March.

Snow geese and friends

Horned Larks and Goodbye to Winter

Disclaimer: There are no pictures of horned larks in this post

The grapevine (okay, Ebird) continued to carry news of horned larks, Lapland longspurs, and snow buntings in farmers’ fields in northwestern Chester County near Honeybrook. As mentioned in my previous post, I had visited this area over the Winter in connection with a trip to try to find a snowy owl that had briefly been seen nearby. On the first try, I had no luck. This time around I spotted horned larks in small flocks, which is a new species for my life list. This is a very picturesque area with lovely farms that merited more photos.

This young farmer was fertilizing his fields for Spring.

Here’s a better look.

Cattle feeding and soaking up the sun.

Two Amish schoolhouses are close to each other in this area.

Some looks at the farms and fields.

The plastic tubes are there to protect the young trees as they grow along this riparian boundary. The tubes will biodegrade over time.

Pennsylvania “standing stones.”

A Drive Through Clinton County

Here are some shots from southern Clinton County. Most were taken on my drive from the Lock Haven area to Logan Mills this past fall.

One of the more creative uses of hay bales that I’ve seen.
Horses enjoying the fall air.
There were some lovely trees along the way ….
This must have been a lovely home at one time.

This next stop, made before my drive south, was bittersweet. I visited the Woolrich factory store at its original location several times when I was younger. This store is just not the same, although I am glad to see there is still a presence in the town of Woolrich. The business was bought out my an Italian company which had been a minority investor. They still manufacure items under the Woolrich brand, but it is now made in Italy since local maufacturing has been shut down. The new stuff is very nice but is expensive, as the present owners are trying to position Woolrich as a luxury brand. Woolrich made good quality products at fair prices, but a luxury brand it was not. The new direction doesn’t seem to be in keeping with the heritage of the brand. While I was at the store, I managed to buy one of the last made in the USA pieces.

The Wertz Covered Bridge

The Wertz Covered Bridge, also known as the Red Covered Bridge (but aren’t most of them), is a historic wooden covered bridge located at Bern Township and Spring Township in Berks County, Pennsylvania.

The bridge is a 204-foot-long, Burr Truss bridge, constructed in 1867. It crosses the Tulpehocken Creek. It serves as the walkway entrance to the Berks County Heritage Center, which also includes the Gruber Wagon Works. It is one of only five covered bridges remaining in Berks County. It is the largest single-span covered bridge in Pennsylvania.

The bridge was restored in 1959 and later in 1984, however, when the Warren Street Bypass opened, the bridge was closed permanently in October, 1959. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on November 17, 1978.

The bridge is part of the Berks County Heritage Center, an historical interpretive complex commemorating important eras of Berks County cultural history. The Gruber Wagon Works (a National Historic Landmark) the C. Howard Hiester Canal Center, Wertz’s Covered Bridge, Melcher’s Grist Mill, Deppen Cemetery, Bicentennial Eagle Memorial, the Distlefink statue and a salad and herb garden are all encompassed within the Heritage Center.

The view from Tulpehocken Road.
Inside Pennsylvania’s longest single span covered bridge.
The Bat Colony of the bridge. I love bats. They eat insects and are so cute.
A look around the Berks County Heritage Center…
A look up at the bridge.
The view from the other end.
Tulpehocken Creek

Snow, Snow Go Away

Here are some photos of snowy Valley Forge National Historical Park and Chester County. Snow becomes less agreeable to me as I age, but it still looks very pretty.

These views of Valley Forge look down the hill from the Varnum’s Quarters area.

The park was quite full with walkers and sledders under the circumstances.

A drive around northwestern Chester County follows.

A Little Diversion

On my way home from Swatara and Memorial Lake State Parks, I decided to swing through Middle Creek Wildlife Management Area. Middle Creek is not a place I visit much in Autumn, but it is well worth a stop. Middle Creek is administered by the Pennsylvania Game Commission for game propogation and wildlife conservation, but it feels park-like. With opportunities for hiking, picnicing, boating and fantastic birding and wildlife watching, it makes for a great day out.

The view from the Visitor’s Center.
Relaxing by the lake.
The nearby area has some lovely farms.
These horses are enjoying a fine Autumn day.

A Pair of Parks

The 3,520-acre Swatara State Park consists of rolling fields and woodlands situated in the Swatara Valley, between Second and Blue mountains. Swatara Creek runs through the park and is surrounded by forests and wetlands that support an abundance of wildlife. The park is also a hotbed for fossil hunters.

In the past this landscape was dominated by a feeder branch of the Union Canal and then a railroad. Today, Swatara Park features a rail trail, hiking (including a few miles of the Appalachian Trail), fishing, hunting, cycling, horseback riding and kayaking.

The lovely rail trail.
Off for a ride.
The mountains are ablaze in Autumn.

Nearby Memorial Lake State Park consists of 230 acres at the the base of Blue Mountain in East Hanover Township, Lebanon County. The park is surrounded by Fort Indiantown Gap, the headquarters for the Pennsylvania Army and Air National Guard. The park is dominated by its lovely lake. It is a great spot for a picnic or some boating and fishing. There are also hiking trails at the park and and an exercise course.

Fort Indiantown Gap was named after the American Indian village known as Indiantown and the gap in the Blue Mountain where Indiantown was located. Indian artifacts found in the Lebanon and Swatara Valleys indicate a human presence as early as 2,500 BC.

Established in 1931, Fort Indiantown Gap was built as a National Guard training center. During World War II, it was used as a training site for seven Army divisions, and also as a demobilization site once the war was over. Memorial Lake was established in 1945 in memory of Pennsylvania National Guard soldiers who served in World War I and World War II. In 1955, Memorial Lake was transferred to the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and became Memorial Lake State Park.

I would love to have a canoe moored here.
Done fishin’ for the day.
A beutiful picnic spot.
Let’s just enjoy the beauty of the lake.
A great view of Memorial Lake.